The hills along the highway flow like the tide. Gentle and undulating. The headlights give them shapes and contours, making them soft against the sky. Inside, my thoughts crash over me like waves against rocks, powerful and unyielding. The bikes on the roof chatter with the gusting wind. This is a long way to drive when you have too much to think about. The song in the background reminds me of the past months. Maybe giving them some context I couldn’t see before.
The ease of your pose
The grace of your silhouette
The way that your shoulders meet your slender neck
Where would we be without all the distance…
There is a madness that takes hold during Winter. An obsessive madness. A madness of details. A madness of possibilities. This is the season, the bikes hung for storage, when you can dream. This is the season of becoming faster, smoother, cooler, and more bad-ass with the simple addition of new stuff. This is the season of upgrades. Some required, some frivolous, but all are necessary.
Pity the cyclist on a wind trainer. Endlessly spinning. An oscillating fan to move the air. Maybe a half-watched movie to provide a small distraction. Usually banished to the basement or an out-of-the-way corner. A lone rider, ceaseless yet stationary.
The grind of the chain on chainrings. The buzz and hum of the trainer. The whir of the fan. Television chattering in the background. These are sounds of the mid-Winter spin, with heavy legs awaiting the promise of warmer days. In pursuit of, yet never attaining, the long-ago sensations of the open road. Sweating but never moving.
Spring is coming. Spring is coming.
*Author’s note: This was originally written at a time when it was, including the wind chill, -37 degrees outside. The despair was palpable.
Going to the gym has never been fun for me. Going to the gym has always been a maintenance activity. By definition maintenance activities can almost never be fun. If they were, then they wouldn’t be maintenance activities. No, the gym has forever felt like something I have to do instead of something I want to do. Yes, I see benefits from an off-season weight program. Yes, I think it helps me avoid injury. Yes, it probably makes me a better rider. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it while doing it.
The only way to enjoy being an unstoppable force is to have obstacles in your path. You need to have things that try to stop you, that get in your way, so you get a sense of how fast you’re going as you smash through them. Sometimes this works out, sometimes it doesn’t.
But such is life.
It’s cold outside. There’s a hard frost on the ground. It’s still dark out. The bike season is almost over and I have a difficult decision to make. I could go for one of the last rides of the season, with layers upon layers of gear, the subtle burn of a winter embrocation, my body braced for the bitter chill. Perhaps unsurprisingly, spandex and lycra do not make for great insulation. The wind pushes at my window as I stare at the bike. I could go for a ride this morning, or, I can keep playing The Legend Of Zelda: The Wind Waker. A difficult decision indeed.
Since time immemorial, turning on the lights in a pub has signaled the beginning of the end of your night. The room lit up, your thoughts turn to securing that last drink, finding that greasy snack, or making that last-minute connection. For the past couple of years, the arrival of Frozen Thunder at the Canmore Nordic Centre has signaled the imminent end of the bike season. Snow has been creeping ever-lower down the mountains, frost is now ever-present during morning rides. Thoughts now turn to the off-season. Cross-training, hitting the gym, running (blech!), maybe the occasional swim. The off-season is coming. Frozen Thunder is telling you ” You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”
It’s 7:00 in the morning and it’s hot. Along with the RV traffic on the highway, I had hoped to avoid the heat. I don’t function well in extreme heat. My second cup of mediocre, but complimentary, coffee is cooling as I look out the widow of my hotel room. I know that Osoyoos in August is hot. That’s just how it is. I was expecting that. But there’s a part of me that was hoping by waking up early it wouldn’t be so bad. Admittedly, it was a bit of wishful thinking. You roll the dice and you take your chances I guess.
Man, I’m grumpy this morning.
The big climb has a special place in cycling. In many ways it’s a contest with yourself and with nature. Do you have the legs to make it to the top? And barring that, do you have the will and the strength to suffer to the end. Pain, and how you deal with it, is a large component of cycling. The big climb, wherever it may be, is a test. Has Mother Nature created something that will beat you? Has She created something that you cannot defeat, cannot climb, cannot finish. How much can you take before you give up? And is giving up something that you can do?